My experience growing ‘Karapuncha’

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

We have a tall Karapuncha tree planted in a big pot on the balcony, giving us enough curry leaves during summer months. During winter the leaves fall off and the tree goes into hibernation.

Three months ago, to my delight I saw an offspring shooting up. When it was about 5 inches tall, I thought it was best to grow it in a separate pot to offer it to a friend. So, I separated the soil from the solitary root carefully, and when I saw the lateral minor roots, I cut it below and the sibling was planted in a separate pot, nurtured carefully spraying water daily, and keeping in a semi-shade position. Some fertilizer was mixed in the potting mixture

The offspring remained healthy, but did not grow taller as expected, even after giving all the care that it needs.

About a month ago two more shoots sprung from the mother plant. I observe that these two plants have grown to a height of two feet with no care at all of course watering the mother plant daily.

The lessen I learnt is that even in the plant kingdom you should allow a growing shoot to remain with the mother, and it is observed that it grows taller and much healthier.  When separated from the mother, the first plant remained stunted and not very health looking and still remains the stunted size.

This mother-nature situation applies to the humans, too. Never separate the children from the parents, if you wish them to grow healthy and happy.

When Sri Lankans migrate to another country, the first plant they would want to grow is a karapuncha plant, and then the housewives seem to discuss how their plants are progressing at party discussions.

The karapuncha tree belongs to the Murraya koenigii Rutaceae family. It is also called curry leaf plant.

The curry leaves are natural flavouring agents with a many health benefits. They give the curry an appetizing taste and pleasant aroma. The leaves have antioxidant properties and in ayurveda the dried leaf is prescribed for gastrointestinal problems, diarrhea, has antimicrobial activity, and bring down cholesterol in your blood. They also seem to have some cancer fighting properties. The roots are used for treating body aches and the bark is used for snake bite relief.

The curry leaves have many micronutrients, including iron, magnesium, copper, fibre, calcium and vitamins like nicotinic acid, vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B, and E.

Though Sri Lankans talk of the health properties of the curry leaves they leave them aside on the side of the plate whilst enjoying their rice and curry. South Indians seem to chew and swallow with the food.

These health benefits have some effect but of no therapeutic value in treating diseases.

This is my story about Karapuncha.

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